Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Following the recent news that scientists found some important neurological differences in the brains of children with autism, comes more hopeful news.
As part of a very small research study, seven babies (ages 6 to 9 months) who were identified as having early signs of autism were offered therapy—and the findings were shocking: By age 3, five of the seven children didn’t show any symptoms of autism, and a sixth showed only mild ones, USA Today reports.
The research was run by the University of California Davis’ MIND Institute and involved a modified type of treatment that is already offered to older children diagnosed with autism that includes intensive sessions with therapists and family members designed to teach parents how to pick up on their children’s subtle social cues during daily activities.
“It doesn’t prove that these children recovered from autism,” Rogers told USA Today, because they were not technically old enough to be diagnosed with autism. But “it’s a promise of a potential treatment for young children who have these symptoms.”
Study co-author Sally Rogers and her colleagues are now working to secure funding to run a larger study.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, learn more about the different treatment and therapy options that are available to you and your family.
Photo of baby courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Monday, August 25th, 2014
New insight was gained recently into the brains of children with and without autism, according to a study published in the journal Neuron.
Although there are many neurological variations, one major difference between the brains is that the number of synapses (the channels through which neurons send messages) were found to be more than 50 percent higher in children with autism, Reuters reported.
Researchers learned that children whose brains develop normally begin to prune synapses as they age, but children with autism failed to do that effectively. It’s important to note that their brains weren’t producing more synapses; just having trouble paring them down. The overabundance of synapses correlates with the understanding that children with autism deal with sensory overload, as the synapses can stimulate the brain with too much light and sound.
The same study also found that the drug rapamycin had positive effects on lab mice with a specific, rare genetic disease associated with autism. After being given the drug, the mice experienced an improved synapse pruning process, and their autistic-like social behaviors (avoiding interactions) were reversed. “We were able to treat mice after the disease had appeared,” neurobiologist David Sulzer of Columbia University Medical Center, who led the study, told Reuters. Although the drug is currently too dangerous to test on humans, it offers a possibility that a treatment for autism is in reach, “though there is a lot of work to be done,” Dr. Sulzer said.
The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 68 children has some form of autism, which has no treatment plan. If successful, the drug has the potential to be groundbreaking. The nonprofit, Autism Speaks, is already funding multiple studies on rapamycin.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, download these free family support tool kits from Autism Speaks.
Photo of chalk drawing courtesy of Shutterstock.
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